Hydrangeas: To Prune, or Not to Prune?



By Mary Leigh Oliver

AUBURN UNIVERSITY, Ala. – The beauty of blooming hydrangeas can mask their tricky maintenance. Don’t let the fear of the unknown keep you from pruning—but take care to do it at the right time. To master hydrangea maintenance and keep the beautiful blooms coming, follow these practical pruning tips.

Pruning Purpose

“You could never prune hydrangeas and they will still flower, but at a slower rate and often times the blooms are much smaller,” said Alabama Extension agent Mallory Kelley. “If your hydrangeas are blooming fine this season, you may be wondering why pruning is necessary.”

While it may seem like a confusing, lost cause, pruning is necessary for successful hydrangeas.

Pruning promotes branching for the hydrangeas. The more pruning, the more it will encourage—and therefore increase—bud production and flowering for the next year.

Hydrangea Variations

Pruning hydrangeas serves as an area of confusion to many gardeners due to the multiple varieties common in Alabama flowerbeds.

Varieties that bloom early in the spring like mophead and oakleaf hydrangeas will need pruning right after they bloom. These will produce new wood through the summer and fall to have buds for next spring.

“If you wait until winter when they are dormant, you will be pruning away the buds,” Kelley said. “This removes where the flowers would bloom the next spring.”

Other varieties that require more sun like Lime Lights will bloom much later. In central Alabama, these variations typically bloom around July 4. In contrast to the mophead and oakleaf, prune these hydrangeas in the winter when they are dormant. After pruning, fertilize the hydrangeas in the spring to further stimulate new growth.

Proper Pruning

To begin pruning, it is best to first remove any dead or diseased material. “Sometimes hydrangeas can get some winter damage to tissue that did not have a chance to harden off before winter temperatures,” Kelley said. You will need to remove this tissue as well.

After pruning all dead material, mophead and oakleaf hydrangeas require no further maintenance until they finish flowering in early summer. Then, prune back the hydrangea to manage size at branch junctions or simply clip off the spent bloom a few inches below it. If gardeners spot a new forming bud while pruning, make sure to clip just above this bloom.

Pruning can be intimidating task to some gardeners.

“You can’t make too big of a mistake when pruning hydrangeas,” Kelley said. “Don’t be afraid to prune because it will stimulate new growth and new flowers.”

If the hydrangea seems to be struggling, the issue may be deeper than pruning. The issues could be associated with improper watering, lack of clean-up at soil level or insufficient morning sun.

If the thought of pruning becomes overwhelming, Kelley said it is best to simply remember: no matter the variation, it safe to prune hydrangeas after the blooms are spent.

Once pruning is complete, bring the beauty inside and use the blooms in various flower arrangements.

For more information on pruning and hydrangeas, visit the Alabama Extension website, www.aces.edu.

FAQs

What month do you cut hydrangeas?

Trimming should be done immediately after flowering stops in summer, but no later than August 1. Do not prune in fall, winter, or spring or you could be cutting off new buds. Tip-pruning the branches as leaves emerge in spring can encourage multiple, smaller flower heads rather than fewer larger flower heads

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Should you cut back hydrangeas every year?

Prune back stems to just above a fat bud ? called a heading cut ? in fall, late winter or spring. These plants have conical-shaped flower heads. I recommend leaving the dry, tan flower heads on the plant to provide some winter interest in your landscape, so I wait to prune these until late winter or spring

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Do you cut hydrangeas back in the fall or spring?

While some plants bloom on new growth, others primarily set flower buds on old wood. Regardless, it is best to wait to prune all hydrangeas until spring. In the fall, hydrangeas (and all trees and shrubs) are in the process of going dormant. They do not produce very much new growth until the following spring

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What happens if you prune hydrangeas too early?

If it’s blue, or blooms in summer If you prune them in early spring, you risk cuting off the dormant flower buds. By pruning right after the blooms have faded, you allow the plant time to set buds for the next year

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What happens if you don’t cut back hydrangeas?

If you don’t prune hydrangeas then they can eventually resemble a tangled mass of woody stems, and the flowers will become smaller and less showy. If your hydrangeas are not blooming, lack of pruning is often a reason.

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Should I cut off Brown hydrangea blooms?

Are the blooms on your hydrangea shrubs fading or turning brown? No need to worry ? this is simply a sign that it’s time to remove the flowers, a process called deadheading. When you deadhead hydrangeas, you aren’t harming the plants at all.

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What happens if I don’t deadhead hydrangeas?

If you simply skip deadheading hydrangeas, no harm will come to your plant. At least nothing so serious that you should stress about it. Your hydrangea may not produce as many blooms as if spent blooms would have been removed, nor the blooms will be very large. But it will still bloom, regardless.

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Should I cut my hydrangea to the ground?

It is easy to grow these hydrangeas because they bloom every year regardless of how they are cared for or treated. They can be pruned to the ground in the fall and they will emerge in the spring with bountiful blooms. However over a period of time this drastic pruning may cause the plant to slowly weaken.

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How to Care for Hydrangeas in Alabama – Garden Guides

How to Care for Hydrangeas in Alabama Hydrangeas are prolific flowering plants native to areas of Southern Asia and North America. Although there are more than 20 species of hydrangeas in existence, only five of them typically are grown in the United States. All five are well-suited for growing in areas of the South, including Alabama where the native oakleaf hydrangea is known as the state’s wildflower. With the proper care, hydrangeas can thrive and bloom in Alabama gardens for many years. Plant hydrangea in a well-drained growing site that receives full morning sun and partial afternoon shade. Optimize soil drainage by planting hydrangeas in a mixture of 50 percent garden soil to 50 percent organic compost. Keep the soil consistently moist but not soggy. Give hydrangeas at least 1 inch of water per week through rain or irrigation. Hydrangeas are prolific flowering plants native to areas of Southern Asia and North America. With the proper care, hydrangeas can thrive and bloom in Alabama gardens for many years. Add a 1- to -2-inch layer of organic mulch around the base of the hydrangea to help conserve moisture and keep the roots cooler during the hot summer months. Fertilize according to your particular hydrangea species. Give bigleaf hydrangeas light applications of a general purpose fertilizer such as 10-10-10, applied in March, May and July at a rate of 1 lb. per 100 feet. Give panicle and oakleaf hydrangeas applications of the same fertilizer in April and June, and smooth hydrangeas need one application of 10-10-10 in late winter. Prune according to species. Prune bigleaf and oakleaf hydrangeas, which bloom on old wood growth, immediately after flowering. Cut away 25 to 50 percent of the old stems with a pair of pruning shears to improve the shape of the plants and increase flowering during the next season. Trim the smooth and panicle hydrangeas, which bloom from new growth, to half their height every year in late winter or early spring. Remove up to half of the stems on panicle hydrangeas in early spring to encourage more flowering. Add a 1- to -2-inch layer of organic mulch around the base of the hydrangea to help conserve moisture and keep the roots cooler during the hot summer months. Prune bigleaf and oakleaf hydrangeas, which bloom on old wood growth, immediately after flowering. Many hydrangea species and cultivars are resistant to pests and diseases. A little advance research can help you make the best hydrangea selection for your garden space. Straw, hay, bark or pine needles all make excellent mulching materials for hydrangeas. Adjusting the pH of the soil affects the flower color of only bigleaf and serrated hydrangeas. Use fertilizers low in phosphorus to produce blue flowers, and fertilizers higher in phosphorus to produce pink flowers. Do not over-water as some hydrangeas, such as the oakleaf, are susceptible to root rot from overly-saturated soil

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Hydrangeas: To Prune, or Not to Prune?

Hydrangeas: To Prune, or Not to Prune? By Mary Leigh Oliver AUBURN UNIVERSITY, Ala. – The beauty of blooming hydrangeas can mask their tricky maintenance. Don’t let the fear of the unknown keep you from pruning—but take care to do it at the right time. To master hydrangea maintenance and keep the beautiful blooms coming, follow these practical pruning tips. Pruning Purpose “You could never prune hydrangeas and they will still flower, but at a slower rate and often times the blooms are much smaller,” said Alabama Extension agent Mallory Kelley. “If your hydrangeas are blooming fine this season, you may be wondering why pruning is necessary.” While it may seem like a confusing, lost cause, pruning is necessary for successful hydrangeas. Pruning promotes branching for the hydrangeas. The more pruning, the more it will encourage—and therefore increase—bud production and flowering for the next year. Hydrangea Variations Pruning hydrangeas serves as an area of confusion to many gardeners due to the multiple varieties common in Alabama flowerbeds. Varieties that bloom early in the spring like mophead and oakleaf hydrangeas will need pruning right after they bloom. These will produce new wood through the summer and fall to have buds for next spring. “If you wait until winter when they are dormant, you will be pruning away the buds,” Kelley said. “This removes where the flowers would bloom the next spring.” Other varieties that require more sun like Lime Lights will bloom much later. In central Alabama, these variations typically bloom around July 4. In contrast to the mophead and oakleaf, prune these hydrangeas in the winter when they are dormant. After pruning, fertilize the hydrangeas in the spring to further stimulate new growth. Proper Pruning To begin pruning, it is best to first remove any dead or diseased material. “Sometimes hydrangeas can get some winter damage to tissue that did not have a chance to harden off before winter temperatures,” Kelley said. You will need to remove this tissue as well. After pruning all dead material, mophead and oakleaf hydrangeas require no further maintenance until they finish flowering in early summer. Then, prune back the hydrangea to manage size at branch junctions or simply clip off the spent bloom a few inches below it. If gardeners spot a new forming bud while pruning, make sure to clip just above this bloom. Pruning can be intimidating task to some gardeners. “You can’t make too big of a mistake when pruning hydrangeas,” Kelley said. “Don’t be afraid to prune because it will stimulate new growth and new flowers.” If the hydrangea seems to be struggling, the issue may be deeper than pruning. The issues could be associated with improper watering, lack of clean-up at soil level or insufficient morning sun. If the thought of pruning becomes overwhelming, Kelley said it is best to simply remember: no matter the variation, it safe to prune hydrangeas after the blooms are spent. Once pruning is complete, bring the beauty inside and use the blooms in various flower arrangements. For more information on pruning and hydrangeas, visit the Alabama Extension website, www.aces.edu.

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Depending on the hydrangea type, it's not time to prune

Depending on the hydrangea type, it’s not time to prune Pruning the popular hydrangea bush in February is a bad idea, say specialists with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System.It’s only natural that the Alabama Cooperative Extension System can offer your maintenance crews expert advice on pruning hydrangeas. Popular in landscapes far and wide, the bushes are abundant in the South. Administered through both Alabama A&M University and Auburn University, the extension maintains a wealth of horticultural information, including this publication on hydrangeas. Alabama Extension researchers say many people – landscape workers among them presumably – are tempted to prune hydrangea bushes in February. Understanding flower development for each hydrangea species is helpful, Alabama Extension writer Katie Nichols reports, but February is not the time to prune them. Some hydrangeas bloom on “old wood” while others bloom on “new wood,” the Alabama Extension says. Blooms on old wood are produced by buds set last summer. Flower buds forming on this year’s growth appear on new wood. Alabama Cooperative Extension System Home Grounds team leader Kerry Smith says it’s best to prune shrubs that bloom on old wood shortly after current flowering to avoid removing next year’s developing buds. “The next year’s flower buds begin forming in August,” Smith said. “If a shrub blooms on new wood, prune in late winter or in spring to stimulate new growth for additional blooms.” Annual, general maintenance on bigleaf and oakleaf hydrangeas is recommended. Remove all dead wood and cut about one-quarter to one-third of the older stems to the ground. This improves plant vigor, overall shape and bloom volume. Smith said using July 4 as the last date for pruning these two species is an easy way to remember it. Bigleaf and oakleaf bloom on old wood. A few bigleaf hydrangeas such as Endless Summer bloom on both old and new wood. Alabama Extension specialists advise choosing this variety, Nichols writes, if you live in an area prone to late frosts. Both smooth and panicle hydrangeas bloom on new wood. Cut smooth hydrangea 6 to 12 inches from the ground, or at half its height, every year in late winter or early spring. The height for pruning these is strictly personal preference. Prune after initial flowering to stimulate a second flower flush. Panicle hydrangea, sometimes called PeeGee, is most effective in tree form. Remove lower suckers and up to one-half of older stems for greater flowering. Hydrangea hardiness, cold damage The bigleaf hydrangea is the most cold-sensitive species. It suffers with early or late freezes because the flower buds have a weak dormancy. Careful site selection can help you ensure hydrangea bushes will thrive.Surprise warm weather in winter or early spring causes the buds to emerge from dormancy, grow and become more susceptible to freeze damage. Smith said the remedy is careful site and cultivar selection. “If this type of weather is common in your landscape, plant bigleaf hydrangea on northern and eastern slopes under tall pines to reduce the temperature fluctuations that cause early bud break,” she said. Your company’s landscape designers can also choose resilient cultivars that either bloom later or produce new buds for the current season.

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Is it the Right Time to Prune My Hydrangeas? – Southern Living

Is it the Right Time to Prune Hydrangeas? Steve Bender, The Grumpy Gardener On This Page If there is one thing about hydrangeas that scares people, it’s when and how to prune them. They fear that a wrong move can ruin these classic cottage-garden shrubs forever (don’t worry, that’s not really true—eventually your shrub will set new buds for the next season’s growth). So fear not, because we’re here with easy guidelines for pruning hydrangeas that will result in beautiful blooms every year in your summer garden. There are several species of hydrangea, and each blooms a little differently. When to prune hydrangeas basically depends on whether your variety blooms on growth made last year⁠—otherwise referred to as old wood⁠—or on new growth that sprouted during the current year. Let’s run down some of the most popular hydrangeas and what to do. Pruning Smooth Hydrangeas ‘Annabelle’ hydrangea is the showiest and most popular selection of the native smooth hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens). It produces immense clusters (up to a foot across) of pure white flowers in summer on a shrub that grows about 4 feet tall and wide. It blooms on the current season’s growth, so prune it in late winter. Cutting it back to a foot tall each winter produces fewer flower clusters, but they’re huge (a trick I learned from Margaret Mosely in Decatur, Georgia). Cutting it back more modestly produces many more, but smaller clusters. 6a00e55131bf2a88330128771ac525970c-800wi.jpg ‘Annabelle’ smooth hydrangea Pruning Panicle Hydrangeas Panicle hydrangeas (Hydrangea paniculata) have more elongated, cone or pyramid-shaped clusters of flowers. This summer-flowering species likes the sun and is often trained into a tree 15 to 25 feet high. The most widely planted selection, ‘Grandiflora’ (often called “peegee”), bears large, rounded clusters of white blooms that age to rose. Other worthy selections include ‘Limelight’ (lime green flowers that age to pink), ‘Pink Diamond’ (creamy flowers that age to rosy-red), and ‘Tardiva’ (late-opening, arrow-shaped clusters of white flowers that age to rose). Panicle hydrangea blooms on new growth, so prune it in late winter. 6a00e55131bf2a88330128771ac609970c-800wi.jpg ‘Peegee’ panicle hydrangea Pruning Oakleaf Hydrangea Oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia) is an outstanding native that grows 6 to 8 feet tall and wide and has highly lobed leaves like an oak tree. The leaves turn a striking burgundy red in fall. Among our favorite selections are ‘Snowflake’ (the inner florets stay white, outer florets turn rose in summer), ‘Harmony’ (huge clusters of double white flowers), and ‘Pee Wee’ (a dwarf plant to 3 feet tall that blooms at a young age). Oakleaf hydrangea blooms on old wood, so prune it back (although it rarely needs it) in summer just after it blossoms to avoid cutting off next year’s flowers. 6a00e55131bf2a88330120a817c61c970b-800wi.jpg ‘Snowflake’ oakleaf hydrangea Pruning French or Bigleaf Hydrangeas French or bigleaf hydrangeas (Hydrangea macrophylla) are by far the most popular of all hydrangeas for their showy, blue or pink, snowball-shaped blooms. A few popular varieties are lacecaps, meaning they have a cluster of tiny flowers surrounded by sterile, fluttery flower petals. Most selections, such as the standard blue, ‘Nikko Blue,’ bloom on last year’s growth. Before pruning, wait until they start leafing out in spring. You’ll probably notice some stems are light brown with no signs of life. Prune them back to just above where you see fat, green buds starting to open. Most of these buds should produce flowers. Immediately after the flowers fade in summer, cut these stems back if you wish. There are exceptions to these guidelines, however. Newer, repeat-blooming selections of French hydrangea, such ‘Endless Summer,’ ‘Pennymac,’ ‘Mini Penny,’ and ‘Forever and Ever,’ bloom on both last season’s growth and the current season’s growth. You can cut them back in winter, spring, or summer and still get some blooms.

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Your Guide to Pruning Hydrangeas – Twelve Oaks Landscaping

Your Guide to Pruning Hydrangeas – Twelve Oaks Landscaping Hydrangeas are a common plant in the South and are thus included in many home and business landscapes. Many home owners and landscapers mistakenly think the best time to prune these bushes is in February; however, this isn’t entirely true when you take a look at how these flowers develop. According to the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, some hydrangeas bloom on “old wood” while others on “new wood.” If they are on old wood, this means the blooms are produced by buds stemming from the previous summer; buds forming on this year’s growth show up on new wood. As an example, big leaf and oak leaf bloom on old wood; smooth and Panicle hydrangeas bloom on new wood. Pruning shrubs that bloom on old wood right after flowering will prevent the removal of the developing buds for next year. August is when the next year’s buds start to form. Shrubs on new wood would be best pruned in late winter or early spring so new blooms are encouraged. Check out these maintenance tips: Maintenance Tips Of course, you also need to keep up with general maintenance, whether you have a big leaf or oak leaf hydrangea. Cut the dead wood from your big leaf or oak leaf — 1/4 to 1/3 of the older stems to the ground to encourage a robust plant, with good shape and volume.For smooth hydrangea, cut between six and 12 inches from the ground in late winter or early spring.For Panicle hydrangea, which does best as a tree, take away lower branches and up to 1/2 of older stems for increased flowering.Keep July 4th on your calendar as a good reminder for the latest you should wait for pruning any hydrangeas. Don’t do it beyond then.In general, cut above the first set of big leaves or down to the last buds.For hydrangeas that have become overgrown, cut stems to the ground. Although this may delay blooming, it will invigorate the buds once they do start popping out. As one of the most sensitive to cold that you can get, hydrangea needs careful monitoring. It can fall victim to early or late freezes due to the poor dormancy of the flower buds. That means, if early warm weather awakens them and they bloom, only to be hit hard with frost later, they may die or become damaged. For this reason, experts recommend planting big leaf hydrangea on north slopes or east slopes underneath towering pines to keep temperature extremes from affecting them as much. Contact Twelve Oaks Landscape Co. If you need help with your hydrangeas, don’t hesitate to call in the pros. Contact us at (256) 208-5634 or fill out our convenient online form. We have the experience and know-how necessary to properly plant and care for all types of hydrangeas to complement your landscape. Our team would be happy to come out and give an assessment.

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Oak Leaf Hydrangea: the official state wildflower of Alabama

WHNT.com This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated. Oak Leaf Hydrangea is the official Alabama State Wildflower. They’re grown in all sections of Alabama, and when it starts to bloom in May and June, it’s hard to miss. The botanical name is Hydrangea Quercifolia, which means Oak foliage, due to its resemblance to an Oak Tree leaf. All Oak Leaf Hydrangeas bloom with creamy white flowers in late May to June, but the flowers don’t last all summer. As the flowers mature, their petals go through shades of pink or maroon before drying to brown on the plant. These Hydrangea prefer a location in shade or part sun, but if sun cannot be avoided, morning sun is acceptable. Oak Leaf can be durable shrubs that can reach from four feet up to ten feet tall. They cannot tolerate ‘wet feet’ or heavy poorly drained soil, though, so when planting, be sure to dig your hole shallow and wide with organic amendment blended with the native soil. In order to bloom, Oak Leaf needs some of last year’s stems. If you need to prune your plant, wait until after the blooms begin to fade, but don’t wait until winter. There are different varieties of Oak Leaf Hydrangia that have unique flowers, like ruby slippers or the cone-shaped double flower of snowflake. So regardless of which variety you like, keep an eye out for them around Alabama, and maybe think about having your own. Have a gardening question?  Use the form below to ask the folks at Bennett Nurseries.  We may feature this in an upcoming Garden Tips segment!

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How to Prune Hydrangeas: 9 Steps (with Pictures) – wikiHow

How to Prune Hydrangeas: 9 Steps (with Pictures) – wikiHow Download Article Download Article Pruning hydrangeas can help them retain a pretty shape and produce beautiful blooms year after year. Not all hydrangeas are pruned at the same time, so it’s important to know what variety you have before you go outside with those pruning shears. if you prune your hydrangea at the wrong time of year, you could cut into next season’s blooms. See Step 1 to learn when and how to prune your hydrangea. 1 Determine if your hydrangea blooms on old wood. This is another way of saying that your hydrangea produces new spring blooms on last year’s buds. Hydrangeas with this characteristic tend to bloom in early summer, and the flowers die by mid summer. At this point the shrub begins producing the buds that will bloom the following year. Hydrangeas that bloom on old wood include the following: Bigleaf, Mopleaf or Lacecap hydrangeas (Hydrangea macrophylla and H. serrata) Oakleaf hydrangeas (H. quercifolia) Use the images at http://www.hydrangeashydrangeas.com/identify.html to help you identify what kind of hydrangea you have before you start making any plans to prune your plant. 2 Prune just after the blooming peak. Since these types of hydrangeas start producing buds soon after blooming, in late summer and early fall, it’s essential to prune them just as the blooms begin to fade in mid-summer. This way you can trim the shrub before it begins to produce the buds that will turn into next year’s flowers. The longer you wait, the likelier it will be that you’ll cut off some of next year’s growth.[1] If you’ve missed this window, just wait until next year to prune the hydrangea. Hydrangeas don’t have to be pruned every year, so it won’t be a problem to wait. If you’re unhappy with your hydrangea’s shape, you can go ahead and prune – just know that in doing so outside of the short midsummer window, you’ll risk hurting it’s appearance next spring. Advertisement 3 Remove old blooms. Right after they’re spent, use hand shears to deadhead the blooms. Do this by making clips just under the heads at the tips of the stems. This will tidy up the hydrangea’s appearance during the blooming season. You can also remove dead or dying canes at this time; trim them at their base. 4Remove the oldest canes. When a hydrangea is several years old, it’ll start to produce fewer blooms. You can promote fresh growth by taking out some of the older canes – up to 1/3 of them. For thicker canes, you may need loppers to cut them. Cut these older canes to the ground. 5 Prune the hydrangea to reduce its size. If your hydrangea has grown quite large, you can prune it in June or July (just after the blooming season) to contain it a bit. Trim back the branches by 1/3 to the nearest joint. In most cases hydrangeas will grow back quite quickly, so you may not be able to maintain the smaller size for long. This type of pruning isn’t necessary for the health of the plant. Only do it if your hydrangea is taking up too much space.[2] When planting new hydrangeas, it’s best to choose a spot where they can grow freely. “Endless Summer” hydrangeas are an exception to the rule. This variety is more low-maintenance than others and can really be pruned at any season – there is no “bad time.” Endless Summer hydrangeas can mainly be left alone…

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